SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grit and Perseverance - The Legend of the Koi - Chinese tale

Grit & Perseverance - Voluntary goal oriented behaviour, despite obstacles, disappointments, difficulties and discouragements.The ability to continue taking the right actions that lead us towards our goals despite setbacks and brickbats. This trait falls within the sphere of Courage.

Some of the ways to develop this trait is to have a role model and mentor who can guide either in person or in spirit. This trait can also be developed by setting small simple weekly goals and achieving them on a regular basis. This particular value/trait is ranked highest amongst all traits to possess and is associated with delayed gratification in its ability to predict success.

King Bruce and the Spider is a classic legend set in medieval Scotland that brings out this value to perfection.  
Mathematician Andrew Wiles had a 30 year obsession with Fermats Last theoram and spent 7 relentless years to finally arrive at a solution. Grit; Plays a major role in shaping people's life!

Vocabulary to Use


You can listen to an audio of this story here:

The Legend of the Koi Fish - a Tale from China ( adapted )

A very long time ago, there flowed a yellow river on earth and from where it met the horizon, flowed a blue river to the sky. The two were separated by the Dragon Gate and what lay yonder on the blue river was the magical Great Waterfall.

Every fish in the river dreams of swimming through the yellow river and reaching the other side. But this was an arduous task, for the water flowed upstream and many fish gave up even before they started. 
...Except for one little fish called Blue Koi, who lived in the yellow river along with his gorgeous and elegant Father Black Koi and Mother Red Koi.

This little remarkably deep Blue Koi had a heart of its own. He wished to swim upstream and reach the Great Waterfall, for he had heard from his Father that all those who could get to the other side would grow wings and become transformed into a Dragon Fish. So he dreamed of becoming one.

The current was strong when Blue Koi started flapping his fins. He flapped and flapped and pushed himself as much as possible. Gradually he progressed up the river towards his goal.

Yet his loud flapping attracted the Gods who were guardians of the blue river. They peered down from the skies to see this iridescent Koi swimming with such focus. They did not like it one bit. They did not want any more newcomers to their river and definitely not such a small Koi fish. They clapped their hands and suddenly the River Mouth Monster emerged from the deepest part of the yellow river and stood ready with his mouth open for he could swallow anything that crossed its path.

The Blue Koi was taken unawares and found himself dragged into the deep cavernous mouth of the river monster. But he was alert and watchful and that is how he noticed the tiny holes on the skin of the River Mouth Monster, just big enough for him to squeeze through and with renewed effort, he bravely swam through the tiny pore and escaped from the hurdle placed in front of him.
Again he flapped and flapped and pushed as much as possible.

Now the Gods were eager to test him once more, so with a swish of their hands they churned the yellow river so badly that Blue Koi could see nothing. Dirt and dredge floated around him and he flapped helplessly trying to see ahead. He waited patiently for the dirt to settle down, which it did after a long while and then once again Blue Koi resumed his flapping. Some would say that the Wind God was impressed by him and sent a gentle and calming breeze to settle the water, while some say the Blue Koi Fish was himself so patient that finally the river did settle down.
Yet again he kept flapping and flapping as much as possible.

Now Blue Koi could feel a different tension on his fins, he knew he was nearing the Dragon Gate, the water was flowing very differently. Bump! His head touched something hard and the water too had reduced to a thin trickle. He looked around and noticed there was yet again another hurdle in his way. A huge wall stood in front of him and beyond that he could hear the gurgling and gushing of the Great Waterfall.

“I am almost there, except that I have to cross this wall. How can I do this?” both excited and exhausted at the same time, Blue Koi muttered.
The Gods had created a huge wall in front of the Dragon Gate and the Blue Koi had only one way to cross this hurdle. He had to JUMP, even though he was tired and exhausted. He had to make this final effort.

Taking a deep breath (in fish that would be flapping harder), Blue Koi jumped as high as he could. He only splashed back into the water. Again and again he jumped and then jumped yet again. The Gods laughed, but he was relentless. Every time he fell down, he flapped his fins and jumped right back. This went on for very long.

Finally the Gods who till now were testing him, feeling great admiration for him, quickly summoned the River God to create a huge wave that carried little Koi right up and over the wall and through the Dragon Gate. He had made it with a lot of effort and whole lot of perseverance! 

The Blue Koi looked at himself and realised that as he crossed the Golden Gate he had been transformed. Elegant paper thin, colourful wings now adorned his two sides and he had become a true Dragon Fish. He floated in that calm water with abandon.

Though he would remain a Blue Koi in his heart, he could always become a Dragon Fish whenever he wanted. Through sheer, hardwork, perseverance and focus, the little Blue Koi had become a Dragon Fish.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Curiosity: The Wonderer - a Norwegian Folktale (adapted)

Curiosity : 
This is a hunger that leads us down a path of discovery and realization.  This pulls us towards new experiences and helps us break away from monotony and boredom. We learn for the joy of learning.

In folktales Curiosity is treated as a curse. The curious woman is thrashed for her nagging questions. The curious princess finds herself in all kinds of trouble and even in fairy tales such as Goldilocks and Snow White, curiosity lands the heroine in great trouble. 

So while searching for curiosity tales, I wished for one that would throw a positive light on this amazing value to imbibe. Curiosity is that which takes us through a journey of discovery and as we grow older curiosity can help keep us mentally and physically active.

There are two delightful stories that you must read if you want to experience curiosity through a tale:
"Why Why Girl" by Jnanapith / Padma Vibhushan awardee Mahashwetha Devi, which reflects a lot of this folktale I have narrated here, but in delightful language. At the same time telling us Books are a source of immense answers to the questioning child.

The other book I would recommend is this delightful book about how curiosity spurred Albert Eistein called 
"On a Beam of light" by Berne ( author) & Radunsky ( illustrator)


The Wonderer - Norwegian Folktale 

(The original tale can be found on Tell me a Story - U express)

In a land far up North lived a boy called Per. He was curious about everything around him and constantly wondered why things were the way they are.
Even while playing a game, he would suddenly stop to ask a question: “Why are the clouds so high up in the sky?” only to be ridiculed by his friends who were quite used to his random questions by now.
Yet he did not let it bother him as he wondered and wandered the village; sometimes observing, sometimes asking and sometimes just understanding things as they appeared to him.
Curious Per they called him and he did not mind. “Curiosity kills the cat” they mocked him, but he never gave a heed. 

“I wonder how people can make new things if they are not curious like me, so I am sure that need not be true all the time” he said. No matter what his friends said, it never stopped him from wandering and wondering and thinking up creative answers to his questions.

One day, while playing with his friends, they heard a deep rumbling from within the woods. It sounded like a hammering, but one can never know what it may be.
“What is that sound I wonder?”said curious Per aloud. “You wonder about the sounds coming from the woods?”, laughed his friends.

But Per decided to investigate and he followed the sound to a clearing in the woods and there saw a strange sledgehammer that was hammering a rock. But there was no one holding the hammer!
“May I know what it is you are doing?” asked Per.
“Waiting for you”said the hammer. So Per took the hammer and put into his bag and went back to his village.
“So did you find the sounds of the wood?” Asked his friends and Per just smiled at them and nodded his head.

On another day while playing by the stream, his friends and he bent down to drink from the cool water, when Per had another question. “Where does this stream come from, I wonder?” he said.
“Ha ha, from the top of a tree” laughed his friends.
Scarcely heeding their words, Per followed the stream upwards, walking further and further away from them and when he finally stopped, he saw the strangest sight. A walnut was open and the stream gushed out from it! He picked up the walnut, and closed its mouth with some moss and put it into his bag again.
“So did you find the tree?” Asked his friends when he went back. “No, I found a nut” he said and they simply laughed at him.

It so happened that the King of that land was living in his beautiful palace high up on the mountains. But there were two things that bothered him. A wall which he had constructed just outside his palace had suddenly turned magical, and whenever anyone tried to break it down, it grew bigger and taller, almost double its size. So now this enormous wall blocked the palace view of the beautiful hills.

The other problem was that there was no well inside the palace and all the servants had to fetch water from a well far below. By the time they carried the bucket up into the palace the water was freezing cold and the bucket heavy. They despaired of their situation and pleaded the king for a solution.
The King decreed that anyone who would solve their problems in one go, would be very well rewarded.

So the boys who were in the village gathered one day and decided to help the king solve his problems. Per too tagged along with them.
The wall was gigantic by now and even as his friends started hammering and breaking the wall, it grew bigger and bigger. They could do nothing about it.

"Let me try" said Per and took out his magical hammer from the bag. One bang and the wall came crashing down and as they watched, the hammer broke the wall to bits and pieces all by itself. Such tiny pieces that they had no magic in them to get back together and grow stronger and bigger.
The king was overjoyed. But Per now walked to the place where the wall once stood and took out the walnut, placed it in the hole and unplugged the moss and lo behold, a stream started flowing from the nut; all the way from the palace to the village where he lived.

“This is amazing!” Said the King and sent Per back with loads of good things for him and his family.

While all the others in the village, no longer mocked or ridiculed Per. They now started wondering and asking questions about the world. For that is how anything can be discovered!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Creativity : The Magic Horse; a sufi tale

1.       • Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things; includes artistic achievement but is not limited to it . (~VIA~)  

      Creativity is a synergy of two : Adaptability and Originality. To take an idea and convert into an original work is the basic tenet of creativity. Everything comes out of something!
       Another important aspect is that creativity is accompanied by chaos
      and creativity is found when we are allowed to think in free spirit without fear.  

     Most folktales are examples of creative thinking. Either the story plot takes us through a creative journey or the hero and heroine finds a resolution in a creative manner. So you can tell any story for strengthening this particular character.
Vocabulary to use  

  Story : The Magic Horse - a Sufi story retold by Idries Shah, retold here by me. This is a wonder-filled story of possibilities and outcomes and how any creative act may take you down a path that is unpredictable, unusual and perhaps even impractical. Yet we can always make choices that finally leads us to our hearts's desire and happiness and that in itself is a creative process. This is a fairy tale with many layers, but merely listening to it may open up a sense of wonder in a child and many questions in an adult.
   Suitable for 6 years and upwards

       King Mumkin was a benevolent ruler who encouraged much creativity in his kingdom. He had two sons Hoshyaar and Tambal, which as you know means intelligent and ignorant as they may have well been.
   The King who was always on the look out for new possibilities, announced a price to anyone who could bring a device or a contraption that was unique and different and useful.
   An Ironsmith who had invented a wonderful machine stepped forward, on hearing of the award.  He shut himself up in a secret place and diligently worked with a complex plan on a machine; a gigantic Fish that could swim in and under water and even travel by air; all while carrying immense weight within itself.
   While a carpenter who also wished to create something unique, took his simple tools and went into the woods to create, after much thought and reflection a beautiful wooden Horse which looked very real but seemed to not have any practical value. The two presented their unique creations to the King.
   King Mumkin, who had been sceptical of what the Fish could do, took one look at the immense usefulness and practical application of the Fish, declared it the winner, scarcely giving the Horse a second chance and Prince Hoshyar was entrusted the job of using the Fish to its maximum potential while the Ironsmith was rewarded with much wealth and honorariums.
" Nothing can be as useful as the wondrous Fish” declared Prince Hoshyar. The Fish became a much sought after invention.

  Yet the patient carpenter waited for an opportune time for his work to be recognised, and it did come. Soon King Mumkin called for the carpenter and his Horse, bored with the Fish and its wonder.
  “This is merely a plaything” the King dismissed the beautifully carved Horse.
  “It may not look much, but this horse is different” stammered the carpenter. “While the fish needs to be directed, this Horse can sense the rider and lead him or her to their heart’s desire” he explained hesitantly.
  “Such a silly unpractical thing is only fit for Tambal”, muttered the King under his breadth.
  “Let me keep it Father” said Tambal at the same time.
  “Keep the Carpenter in custody, till he can figure out some use for the Horse, and Prince Tambal you can play with this toy till you bore of it” said the King.
   So Prince Tambal took the beautiful life size Horse to his chambers and spent the whole night touching, feeling, observing...why even smelling and just stopped short of licking it! To his delight, he saw many knobs and dials hidden discreetly at the nape of the Horse and as he twisted and turned them, he found the Horse could actually move. He seated himself on the Horse and turned few dials and lo behold, the Horse flew upwards into the sky, taking him to where ever his heart wished for that night. In this way he spent many wondrous evening flying to far off land and returning, filled with the magic of visiting new lands and stories of the sights he saw there.
  One day he met Hoshyar on his way back from another productive day with the wondrous Fish. He looked at Tambal idling his time away with the Horse and commented (like many brother’s do); “I have found my heart’s desire, as I am working for the good of all, but I do not see much in your playful ways”.
  Tambal didn’t have much to say, but those words left him with a deep need to find his heart’s desire. So that night he sat on his Horse and stated clearly.” Take me to my Heart’s Desire”
  And away flew the Horse, across the land , over mountains and forests and seas, and finally it glided towards a most magical mysterious flying Palace. Let me tell you about this Palace. It had been created specifically to safeguard the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl, by her magician Father and King; Kahana. It was guarded by Mute guards and no one was allowed to speak or befriend the poor Princess.
  The Horse landed in that very magical Palace with Prince Tambal, and so carefully that no one saw them come, except the Princess. The Princess who yearned for company could not help but fall in love with this talking Prince, who was also gentle and kind while speaking to her.
  “But my Father will never let us marry, as he wishes to marry me off to a powerful magician King who lives on the other side of our Kingdom.” She said with despair.
  “I will convince him” said Tambal and mounted his Horse to fly to the palace on the ground.
  The way to the palace was filled with enchanted things and Tambal’s eyes were darting here and there, trying to see and hear and look at everything. But when he reached the Palace gates, he heard the bells ringing, announcing the King was not in and had left the palace for elsewhere.
  “He has gone to see his daughter in the Whirling Palace” informed one of the guards.Now Prince Tambal had to wait or follow the King to the Whirling Palace. But something told him the King may not like to see him at the Whirling Palace and so he quietly flew his Horse into the balcony of the Palace. Hoping to wait and watch for the King there.
  Yet sleep overwhelmed him. He had never been on such a long adventure before and soon Tambal let the Horse stand in a corner and went and laid down himself in a secluded spot in that very balcony which ran around the Palace of the magician King Kahana.
  Back in the Whirling Palace, our Princess was too excited and too naive to hide anything from her Father and she blurted out the story of Prince Tambal and her desire to marry him.
  “Never”, yelled the King furiously and sped back to his palace, hoping to make rapid arrangements that would ensure his daughter married the man he had chosen for her.

  In the Palace, the guards had found the Horse and seized it to show it to their King.
  “Aha! That scoundrel is here somewhere and will surely come back to take his Horse” he exclaimed. Kahana did not even try to understand the magic behind the Horse and swiftly ordered it to be locked up in a cupboard.
  Prince Tambal woke up with a start and realised to his dismay that he was stranded in a magical kingdom with no way or means to escape without his flying Horse. His only thought was to somehow get back to his own kingdom and take his father’s help and come back to claim his heart’s desire – yes, the beautiful Princess Precious Pearl.

  But a man with nothing, how will he cross the treacherous desert? He had no choice and poor Tambal suffered from the many moods displayed by the desert. The sun beating down during the day created mirages and the cold frost of the night made him delirious. He saw people where there were none, he saw water, and cities that were merely his imagination. The days telescoped into the night. He was on the verge of giving it all up, with no hope of ever reaching home or going back to the Princess, he seemed to not know what his heart desired anymore....until he saw an oases glimmering in the sand.
  Is it real or my imagination he wondered? But finally for once the oases did not disappear and he ran towards it and thirstily drank from the pond, and grabbed the fruits deliciously hanging from the trees and devoured them. Then in almost a swoon, he slept and slept for a long while.
  When he awoke he felt different. His hands looked bigger, and alas they had big claws and fur at the end. His head felt heavier and alas he had horns growing from them. “Woe is me”, he yelled, “My appearance has changed though I am still Tambal from within. Yet who will know me, how will Precious Pearl even recognise, me – this beast that I have become” he wept and wailed, sobbed and threw himself to the ground....
  As the moon rose and Tambal’s crying stopped, a light was seen approaching him from afar. It came closer to reveal an old man with a long white beard, carrying a lamp. “Who is this, an evil in disguise?” thought Tambal.
  The gentle voice then told him “My son, you have been affected by the influences of this place You are lucky, I come in time having heard your loud cries. If you want to escape, then firmly think of your Heart’s Desire and take a few of the dry fruits that lie at the bottom of the tree. Then follow your destiny” so saying he walked away.
  Prince Tambal found the dry fruits and quickly ate some with relish. His horns disappeared and so did his claws and fur with the rising sun.
  Sounds of horses galloping reached him and as he watched from the safety of the trees, he saw a procession of horsemen approach. One of them looked regal and princely, he rode over to Tambal and in a loud voice announced himself, having mistaken Prince Tambal as the guardian of the oases.
  “We demand some of these fruits as we have ridden from afar and cannot remain for long; for I am Jadugarzada, son of the magician King of the East and on my way to marry the Princess Precious Pearl of the Kingdom of the West. Here take this bag of gold and give me some fruits instead”, he said as he tossed a bag to Prince Tambal.
  “So this is my destiny”, thought prince Tambal as he quickly plucked some fruits and gave it to the Son of the Magician. You know what will happen here. As they watched Jadugarzada grew horns and claws and fur and was quite befuddled and confused, and insisted he was normal, while they were all deformed and enchanted.
  The Councillors who had accompanied him were flummoxed. How could they go to claim the Princess, and go they must?
  After much debate and we really don’t know why and how such things turn out the way they turn out. The councillors decided to make Tambal act as the Magician Son and they covered Jadugarzada with a hizab and coerced him onto a horse and tied him too, till he regained his senses, they declared.
  “We will make this oaf go through all the ceremonies, for he looks the part. Once it is done and the Princess is with us, we can then decide what to do with him.” They rationalised a plan.
  So Prince Tambal by a queer turn of events now found himself decked up in finery travelling to the palace of King Kahana. There he was taken with great ceremony to the Palace and their marriage was conducted with much pomp. In all of this Princess Pearl got a glimpse of the groom and almost fell off her chair in astonishment.
  Prince Tambal signaled to her to remain silent and with a quiet nod and a look conveyed what he wished to convey and that is a language known to those who love another. That itself was a task as the head of Magician Prince party was keeping a close watch on them.
  The Head soon announced it was time for the Bride to leave with the Bridegroom party. “ Oh Wise and Wonderful Monarch, Oh Just and Glorious Monarch it is time for us to accompany the bridal pair back to our land in order for them to establish their new home”. he said
  Now Prince Precious Pearl looked with alarm at her husband Tambal; for once they were out of the Palace, she knew they would kill Tambal and the Magician Prince was also recovering his senses, though his fur and horns were still there. Time was crucial here and Tambal quickly whispered in her ear.
  “Fear Nothing. We must follow our destiny and act as best as we can. Agree to go, but say you will not leave without the wooden horse”.

  King Kahana was annoyed at this strange request , but being convinced that it was a mere plaything that she desired to have in the new home she was leaving to go to; he agreed and the Horse was finally brought out from the cupboard that it had been shut in for all this time.
  Just then the Magician Son from the East; Jadugarzada, threw off his hijab and yelled at Tambal, while Tambal grabbed the Princess on one hand and the bridle of the Horse on the other and swiftly climbed up with the Princess as well, and with a turn of a dial and swish of a nob, the Horse flew up, up and away. All those gathered below watched with astonishment  at this sudden turn of events; helplessly.
  With his heart’s desire by his side, Prince Tambal returned to his Kingdom. The people were overcome with delight at his safe return. King Mumkin was overjoyed and when he heard the stories that Tambal had to share with him, he too was amazed and perhaps even a bit envious.
  The carpenter was released and rewarded, Prince Tambal and Princess Pearl were made the heirs to the throne, while Prince Hoshyar remained quite happy with his wondrous fish. “There is nothing more rewarding than working with my wondrous fish and that is what makes me happy”, he said.
  So they lived happily ever after and people say that;
  “Those who want fish can achieve much through fish, but those who do not know their heart’s desire may first have to listen to the story of the wooden horse”

   The story ends here, but not our adventures...   


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